The U.S. Supreme Court has cleared the way for an Arkansas law that blocks medication-induced abortions to go into effect.
The law, originally passed in 2015, says that any physician who “gives, sells, dispenses, administers, or otherwise provides or prescribes the abortion-inducing drug” must have a contract with a physician who has admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
The order, issued without comment, would allow the law to take effect in mid-July if no other legal action is taken.
Planned Parenthood sued the state of Arkansas after the law after was passed, arguing it placed an undue burden on a woman’s right to have an abortion.
A federal district court in Arkansas issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Arkansas law from taking effect. In her ruling, Judge Kristine Baker said the Arkansas law was a “solution in search of a problem.”
But a three-judge panel on the 8th Circuit vacated the district court’s injunction, saying the lower court did not make “factual findings” estimating how many women would be impacted by the law. Planned Parenthood appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a statement, the abortion provider said it would “move swiftly for emergency relief in the district court” but is telling patients they can no longer access medication abortions at its clinics in the state.
“Arkansas is now shamefully responsible for being the first state to ban medication abortion,” Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood executive vice president, said in a statement. “This dangerous law also immediately ends access to safe, legal abortion at all but one health center in the state. If that’s not an undue burden, what is? This law cannot and must not stand. We will not stop fighting for every person’s right to access safe, legal abortion.”
Arkansas officials and pro-life groups disagree.
Jerry Cox, president of the Arkansas-based Family Council welcomed the action, “This is very good news for people who care about the safety of women in Arkansas. It’s not too much to require an abortion doctor to have a contract that allows him or her to have their emergency patients to be admitted to a local hospital. Women who are bleeding from a botched abortion shouldn’t have to drive to the emergency room and admit themselves into the hospital. They deserve better treatment and this law does that.”
According to the pro-life group Operation Rescue, an ambulance has been called to the Arkansas Pregnancy Resource Center in West Little Rock three times this year alone. It is the only surgical abortion clinic in Arkansas.
Lawyers for Arkansas say the law is a “commonsense requirement” that “merely requires medication abortion providers to have a contractual relationship (to ensure follow-up treatment if needed) with a physician that has admitting privileges.”
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge also celebrated the ruling. “Protecting the health and well-being of women and the unborn will always be a priority,” she said in a statement. “We are a pro-life state and always will be as long as I am attorney general.”